More Parking, Fewer Units Could Be Mar Vista Council Prescription for Venice Blvd Housing Project

Rendering of the proposed project at 12444 Venice Blvd. via the Mar Vista Community Council website.
Rendering of the proposed project at 12444 Venice Blvd. via the Mar Vista Community Council website.

Tomorrow night, the Mar Vista Community Council will hear from the public about a proposed mixed-use housing project slated for 12444 Venice Boulevard.

The proposed project would replace an existing strip mall. The proposal is for a new 85-foot tall building with 77 units (seven of which would be affordable) and about 2,100 square feet of ground-floor retail. It would include more bike parking (89 spaces) than vehicle parking (75 spaces) both at ground level and below.

At a recent meeting of the Mar Vista Community Council Land Use Committee, many of the usual concerns about new housing projects were raised. According to Argonaut coverage of the meeting last month, the building height was the primary concern.

A letter [PDF] to the City Planning Department from Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin revealed that some residents were also concerned by the lack of parking.

The question that will be answered Tuesday is whether the Mar Vista Community Council will support this project or if they will call for fewer units and more parking.

“The proposed project only provides 75 parking spaces, despite the fact that it has 77 residential units and over 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail,” Bonin wrote in his letter, dated July 12. “The limited parking will place a tremendous strain on the surrounding residential community.”

According to Bonin’s letter, not only is there not enough parking, but parking should not be at grade, lest it interfere with Venice Boulevard’s transformation into a Great Street. It ignores the negative impact on the walkability of Venice that would come with inviting more cars to the area by adding more parking, underground or not.

Bonin also expressed concern about the building’s height.

“The proposed project is seven stories and 85 feet in height, which is significantly taller than any other building on Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista,” Bonin wrote in his letter. “Such a change is material and should be discussed at a public hearing.”

It is unclear if a height reduction would mean a loss of units. The proposed plans for the project include an alternative, shorter building with the same number of units, but with less architectural variety.

Still, the conversation surrounding this project is emblematic of confused priorities. The city of Los Angeles is facing a severe housing shortage that is driving up the cost of housing and forcing moderate and low-income people out of neighborhoods like Mar Vista that only a decade ago were relatively affordable.

An increase in quality jobs in the area combined with stagnation in housing growth has meant that moderate and low-income households are now competing with higher-earning households for the same units.

The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report earlier this year that reiterated that if California is serious about curbing displacement, then the state should be building a lot more housing, including market-rate housing.

While 77 units is a drop in the bucket, it is a much-needed one at a time when families are being forced out of the state because they can’t afford the cost of housing.

From a livable streets perspective, even with at-grade parking, the project would be a huge improvement over the strip mall that currently occupies the site. Bonin is right to celebrate the transformation of Venice Boulevard into a new multi-modal thoroughfare. He is also right to assure that when properties are redeveloped along the new Venice Boulevard, they augment and improve the street life for people–not just cars.

Putting parking underground advances walkability goals. Requiring more parking on the property does not. More parking would likely increase vehicle trips in the area. Underground parking is very expensive. Investing in more parking spaces to store more cars means fewer resources available to house people.

There is a delicate balance to be struck here, with various goals sometimes in conflict. Will the community prioritize parking over housing, as L.A. has too often done in the past? Or can a consensus emerge that truly serves L.A.’s multi-modal future? Attend tomorrow night’s meeting and make your voice heard.

  • The parking argument reflects the sense of entitlement people feel to store their private property (cars) on public roads. Unfortunately, this idea causes people to complain, which causes politicians to interfere with the market’s attempt to supply more housing. Right on cue, in a totally predictable way, Bonin is pandering to his constituents in an attempt to shore up his political support and stay in power. We’ve seen this happen hundreds of times before.

    This situation won’t change until the ideas underlying the complaints change. Shoup nailed it: get rid of minimum off-street parking requirements, charge market prices for curb parking and return parking meter money to the neighborhoods that generate it. That’s a big mental shift for a lot of people, but it’s a shift we need to make. If LA is going to solve its housing crisis it has to get more urban and stop bending over backwards to accommodate private cars.

    How about minimum bus pass requirements instead of minimum parking requirements ;)

  • Mike

    It’ll be a slower transition than you and I would like, but it’s certainly happening. LA is growing up and reaching a tipping point, where I suspect soon enough, it will once again cater to pedestrians instead of automobiles.

  • Joe Linton

    I like the bus pass – but how about also bike-share?

  • Sherri Akers

    By the way – in addition to the 89 bike parking spaces, each of the 77 units will also have a dedicated bike locker. And they hope to have 2 zip car spaces. The developers presentation is posted here with full details – there are two parts –

  • Asher Of LA

    Can we get Bonin Buy-In if we give the residents Bonin-style mini-bikes?

  • ExpoRider

    How’s this for a solution to the parking problem: disconnect the parking supply from the housing supply. In other words, give residents the option of whether they want to buy a parking space in the development. That way, residents who don’t own cars won’t have to pay for the parking supply. If 25 percent of the residents choose this option there would be plenty of parking for the rest of the residents and retail (to purchase/lease at a fair market price).

  • Are there any plans to expand LA’s bike share system outside of Downtown?

    LA is interesting because they require bike parking but let you reduce your car parking requirement by doing so. This is not the norm at all in most zoning codes, but it should be.

  • Joe Linton

    Metro Bike Share will expand to Pasadena next year. Breeze bike-share includes parts of Venice – and could expand to Mar Vista relatively straightforwardly IMHO.

  • A quick update on the meeting last night:

    After a long and somewhat spirited discussion, the Neighborhood Council voted against the project “as-is” by a 7-0-3 vote. We were presented with options to vote either for or against the proposal, and many of the Board Members that were in favor of the project voted for an amended motion to just oppose the project as is to continue discussion.

    Even though I would likely vote in favor of a project such as this, I voted for the “oppose as-is” motion as did some other NC members that spoke in favor of the project. The presentation from the developers raised a lot of questions that weren’t answered, some of which were pretty basic. For example, the developer said the residential component was seventy one feet, but the plans the MVCC PLUM Committee had listed it as 81 feet. A representative from Bonin’s office said there’s a plan that has the building even shorter but doesn’t reduce the number of apartment, but none of us saw that proposal.

    I’m hopeful that the planner will continue to work with the NC and community and we can answer all these questions and in a month or two we can move forward with this plan. The Westside definitely can use the housing, and I love the TOD nature of the project, so I’m hoping we can get this done in a timely manner.

  • I would love to see unbundled parking and will suggest it.

  • ExpoRider

    Thanks. Unbundled is the word I was looking for. I think Councilman Bonin is progressive enough that he will see the error in his ways and switch to this approach.

  • pamela day

    As the developer of this project, as well as a native of Mar Vista who LIVES and WORKS on Venice Boulevard, I am happy to correct the information with the following:

    The building is mostly 59 feet high in some places and pops up to 71 feet where the mezzanine roofs are located.

    The project provides 77 onsite parking spaces (one for every unit) and 6 offisite spaces in an easement space in the alley, which we were forced to dedicate to the City.

    The project provides for 7 affordable units, which we are working hard to make “artist preference”, in order to help keep the local artists of Mar Vista here in our beautiful neighborhood.

    The project *reduces* traffic, as per the traffic study performed by LADOT.

    The project is BY-RIGHT, meaning we as the developer are not requesting any special variances or approvals from Planning. The current zoning allows for every aspect of the project. In fact, the zoning allows for unlimited height, but we chose to make the building the height you see here.

    The project was designed as a Transit-Priority project, which it is. It is not supposed to be over-parked. By definition, the code suggests that we put in 52 parking spaces. We are putting in 83. Overparking the site is an action which would thumb its nose at the purpose of the Transit Priority law and we feel strongly that this law should be upheld.

    We cannot make everyone happy all the time, but we are solving the housing crisis in the best way we can, with an elegant solution, beautiful design, and thoughtful application of the code.

    Pamela Day

  • stvr

    Wow. Damien Newton. NIMBY

  • Rabi

    What really struck me about this meeting was the extent to which Mar Vista residents feel like they live in a bubble. When people pointed out the number of jobs coming to Playa Vista, residents quickly protested that that’s a different neighborhood. Los Angeles is one city, and we have to share the housing burden. Besides, I doubt most existing Mar Vista residents work in Mar Vista.

  • Sherri Akers

    I agree, and not unique to Mar Vista. I was astonished when one speaker said that she didn’t believe there is a housing shortage. And you are right – people I know to be the most vocal in opposition to more development commute quite a distance for their own job. But it was exciting to see more people there who support more development. That has never happened in the past. My hope is that we can get more opinions heard.



This Week In Livable Streets

Support the Mar Vista Great Streets project at a critical neighborhood council meeting tomorrow night. Other events this week include Toxic Tour leader training, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza redevelopment, bus service changes, Summer Train Fest and more.